Mamta Saikia is the Chief Executive Officer of Bharti Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Bharti Enterprises. As the CEO of Bharti Foundation, Mamta has played a key role in project expansion and enhancement of quality standards and system efficiency, while constantly keeping the team’s morale high to deliver their best in the challenging conditions. She has led the development of organization’s education programs at primary, elementary and senior secondary schools. Under her leadership, Satya Bharti School Program, the flagship initiative of the Foundation, provides free quality education to more than 38,000 children from marginalized communities in rural areas, through its 173 schools across five Indian states. Mamta has led the conceptualization of a new program which transfers the learnings and good practices of the Satya Bharti School Program to Government schools through the Satya Bharti Quality Support Program.
“What a delight it is to hear the cheers of children and the school bell ring every day! A boy from a remote village amidst unending sand dunes of Jodhpur is learning to read and has dreams of becoming an army officer. A girl who was denied education for long as her brothers had to study, is now taking her rightful place in the classroom and she also dreams of becoming an army officer.”
At Bharti Foundation, we believe schools are institutions of learning where children are empowered to fulfill their aspirations as well as groomed for being responsible citizens of the country. Our education programs at school and higher education level complement government’s efforts in fulfilling SDG 4 (Quality Education) in partnership with State Governments, likeminded corporates, civil society organizations and communities. Under our flagship Satya Bharti School program, we run 173 schools in five states impacting more than 39,000 underprivileged children in rural India with a special focus on the girl child. Satya Bharti Schools provide a safe and happy environment for children and have a holistic approach to quality education. With support of our teachers and well-structured child-centered programs and processes, we create a conducive learning environment for all our students as well as teachers. In addition, our Satya Bharti Quality Support Program, which partners with Government Schools to improve the overall schooling experience for both teachers and students, focuses on building life skills as well as aspirations of students and skills & motivation among teachers in 11 States/UTs. Through our programs and initiatives since inception, we have been able to give wings to the dreams of 7.3 lakh underprivileged school children in rural India so far.
As per the World Economic Forum Report, ‘The top skills and skill groups which employers see as rising in prominence in the lead up to 2025 include critical thinking and analysis as well as problem-solving, and skills in self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.’ UNICEF in its report on Comprehensive Life Skills Framework also states ‘resilience and employability skills build upon the skills developed through childhood and become prominent from 14 to 19 years and onwards. In adolescence, the linkage to employability and productive citizenship, becomes increasingly important. Education with life skills as its integral component, will only improve opportunities for young people and improve their life chances and options.’
In the backdrop of increasing demand for skilled workforce, we are focusing on building life skills in children from their foundation years itself. School years provide time and scope to build a strong foundation for children that can act as a ladder for building on these skills as well as employability. With the right kind of opportunities provided at school level, in addition to quality academic opportunities, children are able to build cognitive, social, interpersonal and communication abilities along with other important 21st century skills that will stay with them for lifetime.
Technological skills are equivalently important for children, especially in this age of unprecedented shifts. Challenges are aplenty and with 250 million students* being affected due to school closures in India in the last two years, the learning loss has become the key issue to be addressed. With disruptions everywhere, education system requires re-imagination and re-invention that includes equal emphasis on skills, values and behaviors and providing exposure to digital engagement for enabling a holistic approach to education.
Technology is one of the critical requirements in today’s world to help children become future ready. Role played by technology, especially during school closures due to COVID, as an effective enabler in the education sector has accelerated its acceptance among teachers across the world. We are seeing that a large section of teachers continue to employ technology and digital resources in their teaching strategies. In our Satya Bharti Schools, we have worked on a four-pronged approach to ensure that technology is imbibed with pace and structure to empower our students. This includes a collaborative system with technology partners to provide digital infrastructure for our schools, which has been supported with important initiatives around teachers’ training and creating tech-leaders within schools and creating an enabling eco-system including parents’ orientation in this entire movement to support digital integration. This holistic approach has brought about a change in the teaching learning processes in our Satya Bharti Schools.
Technology enabled education in Satya Bharti Schools have led to enriching learning experiences for the students. Initiatives such as digital classrooms, computer labs, installing smart TVs and computers have been a part of our journey of embedding technology in education. To further build and strengthen technical skills of our students, we have set up Robotics / Advance Technology Labs in Satya Bharti Schools. These labs are equipped with 3D modelling kits, printers and laptops. We have also started building Digital Classrooms in Satya Bharti Schools, in addition to computer-aided learning. These technological interventions support teachers in weaving technology-enabled teaching, access to curated digital resources as well as provide a learning environment to children that fosters life skills such as creative thinking, decision making, teamwork, perseverance and more. Students are also encouraged to take part in initiatives such as World Robotics Championship for their larger exposure to this exciting new world of technology.
There are myriad of possibilities emerging due to technology enabled education. It can help teachers access quality content, be exposed to new innovative practices and material, use technology to facilitate education as well as support students in need of additional support at an individual level with self-paced learning, thanks to technology. At Bharti Foundation, we are of firm belief that the journey towards integrating technology in various aspects of education will lead us closer to realise the potential of each and every student in Satya Bharti Schools and enable them to become future ready.